This page was last updated on 11 August 2021

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names

Camp Morton, Spitzbergen



Camp Morton was a coal mining encampment on Spitzbergen.

Camp Morton


Camp Morton, Spitzbergen

Ernest Richard Mansfield owned a coalmine by Kolfjellet, on the northern shores of the entrance of Van Mijenfjorden, and erected some buildings there. The installation was called Camp Morton. The story goes that before Mansfield’s occupations, the merchant Ivar Stenehjem got funding in 1901 for a couple of expeditions to Spitsbergen with the help of ship-owner Christian Michelsen from Bergen. Michelsen later became Norway’s first prime minister in 1905. At Camp Morton, Stenehjem built a large timber building called Michelsenhuset, which is still standing today. The same expedition erected what is now the oldest building in Calypsobyen, west of Recherchefjorden.

The mines and buildings that Ernest Mansfield and the Northern Exploration Company Ltd. (NEC) established in Svalbard were markers to maintain control of their claims, safeguarding them against competitors that passed through the area in search of minerals. NEC was originally formed in 1905 as the Spitzbergen Mining and Exploration Syndicate (SMES), and re-named in 1910 as the Northern Exploration Company. NEC was formed by three men from Goldhanger, Essex, Ernest Mansfield, Revd Frederick Gardner(1) and Dr Henry Salter.

There are many stories and many opinions about the charismatic leader of the NEC, Ernest Richard Mansfield. He became legendary in Svalbard during the first decades of the 20th century. On behalf of the NEC he annexed large areas, especially on the west coast of Spitsbergen.

Very few people, if any, got as much attention as the founder of Ny-London during this historical era in Svalbard. To some he was a saint, to others a swindler. He was very popular amongst his workers and the overwintering trappers who guarded the installations in winter. Their stories tell about his benevolence and generosity, and his ability to make the workers and assistants feel well. The trapper Henry Rudi said about Mansfield: “During the time we spent with Mansfield we studied him thoroughly. Was he an explorer? Was he a swindler? No! Had he been that, we would have revealed it. He was a gentleman and a wonderful person to meet for poor trappers”.

In his short career in the company he established, he occupied areas from Hornsund in the south to Krossfjorden in the north. All areas where commercially valuable minerals might be found were of interest. Sometimes he bought or annexed areas without prospects, like Camp Smith, with the house Giæverhuset, in Recherchefjorden. Bellsund was the NEC’s main area for a few years. Camp Morton was established here to exploit coal, Camp Asbestos was established to exploit asbestos, Iron Mountain Camp to exploit iron – and so on. In the north he established Ny-London in Kongsfjorden with the intention of extracting marble (it crumbled when brought to warmer climates). Along the west coast of Spitsbergen there are cabins in various states of repair that were built by, on behalf of or with funding from Mansfield and the NEC. Some of these were named after investors and family members: Camp Mansfield, Camp Zoe, (Mansfield’s daughter), etc., as was Camp Morton.

Mansfield was the NEC. Despite this, after the “marble fiasco” at Blomstrandhalvøya, he was removed from the leadership of the company in 1913. After that he had nothing more to do with the company. Ernest Mansfield had an artistic mind and lots of charisma. He was a dreamer with ambitious goals, and a sincere wish for the big discovery. The dream was shattered, the marble at Blomstrandhalvøya crumbled in his hands, but the memories of this man and the remains of his brash endeavours live on in Ny-London and other places on Svalbard.

William Speirs Bruce founded the Scottish Spitsbergen Syndicate, a mineral exploration company to locate and assay the potential of the Svalbard archipelago for the exploitation of minerals such as coal, gypsum, iron ore, marble and possibly petroleum. The initial work was to be primarily scientific, but good commercial prospects were held out as incentives to shareholders in the company. The Syndicate attracted notable Edinburgh and Glasgow businessmen, who speculated in the venture, and young Scottish academics, who found that Svalbard provided an exciting field venue for their work in geology and surveying. Despite seven expeditions between 1909 and 1922, no commercial mining operations were conducted by the Syndicate. By 1920, the Syndicate has filed claims to mining rights for 7,709 square kilometres, much more than any other company. To protect these claims, Bruce petitioned the British government to re-assert British rights to the sovereign control over the archipelago, but there was little real interest in Whitehall for such an annexation. Svalbard's position in international law was not resolved finally until the Spitsbergen Treaty was signed in Paris in 1920, and Norway became the sovereign power in 1925.

Bruce's collection of specimens, gathered from more than a decade of Arctic and Antarctic travel, required a permanent home. Bruce himself needed a base from which the detailed scientific reports of the Scotia voyage could be prepared for publication. He obtained premises in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, in which he established a laboratory and museum, naming it the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory, with the ultimate ambition that it should become the Scottish National Oceanographic Institute. It was officially opened by Prince Albert in 1906. The links with Camp Morton have yet to be made.

The Earl of Morton had several Arctic interests. He and Alexander Bruce Hugh, 6th Lord Balfour of Burleigh had major shares in the little known Spitzbergen Coal and Mineral Ltd of London before Morton became involved in the Spitzbergen Mining and Exploration Syndicate (SMES) in 1906, although he is not listed as such in the 1911 & 1913 company share prospectus booklets. His third son, Hon (Rory) Archibald Roderick Sholto, was also a shareholder in the latter. Then there were shares in Arctic Ltd (no further details known).

Sholto George Watson Douglas, 19th Earl of Morton, and his sons, Rory, Charley, Ronald and William sailed to Norway and Spitzbergen May - July 1906 on the S.Y. Latona. Also on board was Rev Frederick Gardner, Mrs McPherson, Tom Kendall, Unknowns Mawson, who left at Tromso, Parry, Hanson, Scaif, Imby, who left the boat at Hammerfest, and Hewitt. Mawson and Imby were both ill.

One source reports that Balfour and perhaps The Reverend Frederick Ernest Charles Byron, 10th Baron Byron (also an original shareholder in the SMES) were on board. On Spitsbergen and at Camp Morton at the time were Ernest Mansfield (prospector, Goldhanger, Essex), Rev Frederick Gardner(1), Charles Mann (Goldhanger, Essex), George Alexander (Little Totham, Essex), and 13 or 14 Norwegian workers. This report also refers to the yacht, Cressida R.Y.S., which was photographed(3) off the Morton estate, Conaglen, on Loch Linnhie in 1911 (and 1916?).

The coal mine at Camp Morton was being opened up in 1906. Initially open-cast, it never got particularly deep. An entry in the photgraph album refers to Spitzberg Coal and Trading Company. It was later taken over by the Northern Exploration Company, when it appears Frank Wild(4) was in charge. Work had totally stopped by the mid-1920s.

The following has been contributed by David Newman (14 Feb 2013):

In the last two years my (David Newman's) continuing research has uncovered more details, maps and photographs of the activities of Ernest Mansfield associated with Camp Morton on Spitzbergen which is now better know by its Norwegian name of Svalbard.

Perhaps most significantly maps have been identified that show the original mining claims of the group involved. One map shows the Spitzbergen Mining and Exploration Syndicate lands claimed by the Earl of Morton, The Countess of Morton, D Campell and The Hon E Ponsonby. It also shows Camp Morton and "Axels Island" close by. This map does not appear to be dated. Another map, signed by Ernest Mansfield and dated July 1905, shows similar areas claimed by the Earl of Morton, Hon F C Byron, Hon R Douglas, Gardner, J H Salter and Mansfield.

Charles Mann's photograph album remains in the possession of his family and many of the pictures have annotations in both Charles Mann's and Ernest Mansfield's handwriting. Some were taken at Camp Morton and show men working on the buildings, and one shows Ernest Mansfield inside a cabin with "Camp Morton" on a plaque above his head.

The main building at Camp Morton, originally called Michelsenhuset, is still standing and has recently been restored by the Norwegian cultural heritage authorities. It is better known today as Camp Morton and is effectively a listed building. The hut immediately adjacent to it, previously called "Clara Ville", is also still standing. This was built by Charles Mann and George Alexander in 1908, and was named after Charles Mann's relative, his Aunt Clara, with whom he lived at the time in Goldhanger. The Governor of Svalbard currently makes this hut available to the Longyearbyen snowmobile club.

Many photographs of the two cabins at Camp Morton have been found, some recent, and some from the past, with several appearing on the internet. Some of these have allowed me to identify more of Charles Mann's photos as scenes at the same camp. The older photos have a "Camp Morton" sign over the door of the smaller Clara Ville cabin. A third large building also appears in some the older photos, which was probably a dormitory hut for the many mine workers. More recent photos show mining relics, including rail tracks, rail wagon wheels and the remains of small boats.

The Reverend Frederick Ernest Charles Byron, the10th Baron, whose name also appears on the claims maps, was rector of Langford in Essex between 1891 and 1914. The village of Langford is just 3 miles from Goldhanger where the Revd Gardner was rector in the same period and they clearly knew each other and the Earl very well.

In 1932 when the Northern Exploration Company was sold in its entirety to the Norwegian government, 58 huts were included in the sale, and 27 of those remain standing today. Camp Morton and Clara Ville are two of the 27.

The Svalbard Museum has some original "claims plates" with the Earl of Morton and Lord Balfour of Burleigh's names on them. Images of these are on the internet.

David Newman is a co-author of a recently published biography of Ernest Mansfield entitled "Ernest Mansfield - Gold or I'm a Dutchman" The book contains many references to Camp Morton and to the Earl. Some of the photos and one of the maps mentioned above are included in the book.

The other two authors are Dr. Susan Barr, special advisor in polar matters with the Directorate of Cultural Heritage, in Oslo, and Greg Nesteroff, journalist and historian in Nelson, BC, Canada. The book is published by Akademika in Trondheim, Norway with sponsorship from the Svalbard Environmental Fund as there are expectations of sales on Norwegian and other cruise ships visiting the Svalbard fiords from where the huts and mining relics can be observed.

Although the book is the biography of Ernest Mansfield covering his activities in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, England and Spitsbergen, the book concentrates on his Spitsbergen activities for which he is most well known.

The book and it has a surprising 37 references to "Camp Morton" and "Earl of Morton" within it.






1. Rev Frederick Gardner, parson and prospector, Goldhanger, Essex, thought to be connected to a wealthy banking family. Private chaplain to the Earl at Conaglen for 8 weeks in September/October 1899. In the Rector’s obituary in The Times of 1936 it says… “During the War he joined the late Lord Morton’s yacht in a mine sweeping expedition operating on the west coast of Scotland”

2. comment deleted

3. See the Camp Morton Photo Album

4. Commander John Robert Francis Wild CBE, RNVR, FRGS (born 10 April 1873 in Skelton-in-Cleveland, North Yorkshire to 19 August 1939 in Klerksdorp, South Africa), known as Frank Wild, was an explorer on five expeditions to Antarctica for which he was awarded the Polar Medal with four bars, one of only two men to be so honoured, the other being Ernest Joyce.

5. SY Latona at the time belonged to Sir John Whitaker Ellis, a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom and Lord Mayor of London 1881

See also:

  • Camp Morton Photo Album
  • Discussion in our Community Network.
  • Goldhanger in the Past

    Bookmark and Share



    Any contributions will be gratefully accepted


    Errors and Omissions

    The Forum

    What's new?

    We are looking for your help to improve the accuracy of The Douglas Archives.

    If you spot errors, or omissions, then please do let us know


    Many articles are stubs which would benefit from re-writing. Can you help?


    You are not authorized to add this page or any images from this page to (or its subsidiaries) or other fee-paying sites without our express permission and then, if given, only by including our copyright and a URL link to the web site.


    If you have met a brick wall with your research, then posting a notice in the Douglas Archives Forum may be the answer. Or, it may help you find the answer!

    You may also be able to help others answer their queries.

    Visit the Douglas Archives Forum.


    2 Minute Survey

    To provide feedback on the website, please take a couple of minutes to complete our survey.


    We try to keep everyone up to date with new entries, via our What's New section on the home page.

    We also use the Community Network to keep researchers abreast of developments in the Douglas Archives.

    Help with costs

    Maintaining the three sections of the site has its costs.  Any contribution the defray them is very welcome



    If you would like to receive a very occasional newsletter - Sign up!
    Temporarily withdrawn.



    Back to top


    The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

    The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

    As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

    Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

    Contact Us

    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024